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My Global Career: Part 3

This post was originally published in November 2013. Since I’ve gotten some questions about and interest in my career story recently, I thought I’d update and repost the series. Click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Picking up where I left off in part 2 of my global career story… When I graduated from college in 1995 I had a German BA, two years abroad, and a mountain of school loans. My then-boyfriend had the same degree and his own mountain of student loans.

So we did the most logical thing: we bought one-way plane tickets to a town in eastern Germany where we knew exactly one person and had one job lead.


Before heading off to Germany to teach we spent the summer after graduation in Seattle working to save money. There were days when we freaked out about moving abroad with no set job and huge student loan payments. We loved Seattle, and for about a week we toyed with staying there. But in the end we chose the scary, ambiguous, risk-filled option.

And I’m SO glad we did.

By Felix O (Magdeburg with Konsum Schuh Haus. DDR. May 1990) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I lived in Magdeburg about 5 years after this photo was taken but this is how the downtown still looked when I lived there. It’s changed A LOT since then.

Two days after arriving in Magdeburg we walked into a classroom full of former history and Russian teachers who didn’t appear too happy about being retrained to teach English by a couple of 22-year-olds. It was terrifying. Neither of us had ever taught before, so we taught that first class together.

Fortunately, we survived, found more teaching jobs, and taught many wonderful groups of students that year. What a learning experience that year was!

My boyfriend wanted to go to grad school to become a German professor, so we scouted out potential programs during our last year in undergrad. I’d never considered grad school until I discovered that I liked teaching while in Magdeburg, but I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to teach German or English.

Part of me wanted to go back to the US with my boyfriend, go to grad school, and get a job teaching German. The other part of me wanted to move to Spain to teach English.

This was a huge crossroads for me because I knew that each option would set me on a very different career and life trajectory. I went back and forth for many weeks. Neither option felt like the clear winner.

In the end, grad school won out over Spain because I was worried that I might never go to grad school if I didn’t go soon after undergrad. Looking back, I think my fear was ridiculous, because you can go to grad school at any time in your life. But at the time it really felt like a now-or-never type of thing.

Despite the interest I’d developed, I feel like I made the decision to go to grad school more out of fear than anything else, and I do sometimes wonder what I’d be doing now if I’d gone to Spain.

That said, going to grad school when I did set me on the path I’m on now (and that includes meeting my husband, who used to live in Spain!), so I don’t regret the decision at all. But sometimes you can’t help wondering about the road not taken.

When I started grad school it became very clear to me that I enjoyed the teaching much more than the research. I also preferred linguistics over literature. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to teach high school or college, so I got an MAT instead of an MA so that I’d have the option to teach high school if I didn’t want to get a PhD.

There’s SO much I could write about grad school but I’m trying to keep this somewhat brief. Long story short: I finished my master’s, didn’t love teaching high school, broke up with my boyfriend, thought about moving back to Germany, met a guy at a party, and decided to stick around the US for a year to teach college German and see if anything developed with said guy.

Things did develop, and in the spring of 1999 I suggested to my not-quite-fiance that we quit our jobs to go traveling…

Click here for part 4


Photo: Credit